LONDON/MOSCOW, Feb 25 (Reuters) - Gas giant Gazprom's oil arm is shifting its trading operations from Austria back to Russia, it said on Wednesday, with industry sources saying the firm wanted to protect huge revenues from potential seizure as Moscow's relations with the West worsen.
A decision by Gazprom Neft to relocate trading from Vienna to St Petersburg, Russia's second-largest city and the home town of President Vladimir Putin, follows a similar move by its mother company Gazprom to move trading offices from London to St Petersburg.
Both moves show how sanctions imposed on Russia over its actions in Ukraine are forcing a retreat from the West by once acquisitive Kremlin-controlled firms.
The sanctions have drastically curtailed Russian firms' ability to borrow and expand abroad after a decade of asset accumulation, which included purchases of businesses across Europe and creation of trading desks similar to the ones of oil majors BP and Shell.
As relations between Russia and the West hit their worst since the Cold War last year, the country lost several decade-old European court cases over assets worth over $50 billion confiscated by the state.
Those cases included suits by former shareholders of oil firm Yukos, which was broken up by Russian authorities and whose assets are now controlled by Gazprom Neft and fellow Kremlin oil major Rosneft.
Gazprom Neft told Reuters the decision to move trading from Vienna was designed to "improve efficiency" and added it was not planning to close its Vienna offices completely.
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